Author Archive

Should Cell Phones Be a Part of Your Nightly Routine?

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Should Cell Phones Be a Part of Your Nightly Routine?

How often is your cell phone out of reach? Cell phones have become a huge part of our everyday lives. This digital device has become a source of information, internet access and communication. While it often makes our lives easier, it has the potential to cause harm to your mental and physical wellness. Digital devices can steal more time than expected and, without self-control, can do more harm to your health, especially around bedtime.

Using a digital device around bedtime can worsen your quality of sleep and here’s why:

Blue light is detrimental to your sleep patterns. Blue light, which is the wavelength from devices, tricks your brain into thinking you are in sunlight. When your brain thinks it is daytime, it delays melatonin production; melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. When your melatonin is delayed, it becomes harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Notifications will wake you up. The sound of a ring tone, text tone or notification while you are bed will surely disturb the process of falling asleep or staying asleep. If you’re afraid to turn your phone on silent in case of an urgent call, look into your phone settings as many phone settings will allow calls to come through from assigned individuals, even on silent mode. Most smartphones have a sleep schedule where you can set the times for your cell phone to go on and off silent mode.

Your stress levels will increase. Checking your emails and texts may add more stress and make you feel the urgent need to respond. Stressing over emails and messages before going to sleep may increase cortisol levels, ultimately, pushing off melatonin production.

As you get ready for bed, it is important to limit your usage of electronic activities. If you absolutely must have your cell phone near you, turn on the silent mode, some phones also refer to this as “Do Not Disturb” mode. Check if your phone screen can also go into a night mode, which primarily uses red light instead of blue light making the screen less intense and dimmer for your eyes.

The Mental Effects of Daylight Savings and Circadian Rhythm

Monday, March 11th, 2019

The Mental Effects of Daylight Savings and Circadian Rhythm

Each spring, we move our clocks forward an hour, the change is known to cause disruptions to the body’s internal clock, also known as your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is what makes you feel tired and helps you wake up naturally. In fact, your sleep schedules are mostly based off of the 24 hour day and night cycle.

Daylight savings may throw off your internal clock, but it also may have significant effects on the body. Depending on your habits, it may be easier for some people to adjust to the time shift than others. The spring is a more difficult transition compared to the fall. According to the American Academy of Neurology, “Researchers found that the overall rate of ischemic stroke was 8 percent higher during the first two days after a daylight saving time transition. People with cancer were 25 percent more likely to have a stroke after daylight saving time than during another period. The risk was also higher for those over age 65, who were 20 percent more likely to have a stroke right after the transition.”

The following Monday after daylight savings, research has found that people get 40 minutes less sleep, which may lead to greater negative health effects in the following days.

Here are a few ways to cope and transition into the new daylight schedule:

  • Don’t consume caffeine at least 6-8 hours before bedtime
  • Eat dinner a few hours before bedtime
  • Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep
  • Dim your lights closer to bedtime to encourage melatonin production, which helps you fall asleep
  • Avoid using your smart phone or watching television around bedtime, as the blue light from screens may affect your ability to sleep

While daylight savings is a time of transition for our bodies, it too is one of our key markers that spring is just around the corner!


How Bad Are Diet Sodas Really?

Friday, March 1st, 2019

How Bad Are Diet Sodas Really?

By: Eva Sorrentino, MS, RD, LD

The short answer: everything in moderation. Diet sodas are not the most recommended beverage if you ask any dietitian but they are not all bad. Diet sodas are sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, asesulfame-potassium, or stevia. Artificial sweeteners can cause bloating or abdominal discomfort and some people have aversion to the taste.

Some studies have tied an increase use of artificial sweeteners with increased craving for sweets, weight gain, and cardiovascular problems but long term studies are still inconclusive. Whether you chose regular or diet sodas, they have no nutritional value. Carbonated beverage have been shown to break down teeth enamel and over long term and excessive use, can cause brittle bones. Weight gain happens when we consume more calories that we burn off throughout the day so if you are watching calories, a calorie-free beverage like diet soda can help cut down on excess calorie intake. In general, one or two sodas a day will not cause problems.

If you are looking for a healthier version, chose a diet soda that is sweetened with a natural calorie free sweetener such as stevia or try infusing fruit in plain water. Try these refreshing combinations:

Slice washed fruit and add to 1 cup of water (tap or bottled)

  • Lemon blueberry-1 lemon wedge with handful of blueberries
  • Raspberry lime-1 lime wedge, 5-8 raspberries
  • Citrus-1 slice grapefruit, 1 slice orange
  • Cucumber mint-2-3 fresh mint leaves, 3-4 slices cucumber
  • Mixed berry-5-6 each sliced strawberry, raspberries, blackberries

Recognizing Eating Disorders

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Recognizing Eating Disorders

This week is Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  An eating disorder in general is any disturbance in an eating pattern or eating behavior that is intended to control body weight, and impairs physical or mental health. Typically an eating disorder presents with abnormal eating patterns, obsessive thoughts about body image or weight, or distorted image of nutrition.  The American Psychiatric Association classifies eating disorder in to three main categories:

  1. Anorexia Nervosa
  2. Bulimia Nervosa
  3. Eating disorders not otherwise specified
    • This category includes newer identified disorders such as anorexia athletica, diabulemia, and binge eating disorder.

Eating disorders can happen to anyone: from elementary school to the elderly and are seen in both males and females. We typically think of models or young teenage girls as the ideal person to develop an eating disorder but anyone can develop a disorder.  Social pressure, weight stigma, bullying, body image, historical trauma, and type 1 diabetes are just some of the risk factors.

There can be severe health consequences if eating disorders are not caught early including cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, neurological, and endocrine. When calories are severely restricted, muscles-including the heart, start to break down. It can cause fertility issues, increase risk of infections and decreased immune system.  Lack of nutrients will cause hair, skin, and nails to become dry and brittle.  Frequent vomiting or use of laxatives can cause irritation of the digestive system.

Eating disorders are not all about food. People with eating disorders tend to have other issues such as perfectionism, denial, impulse control, manipulative behavior, trust issues, power issues, or family/social issues. For this reason, it takes a team approach to help someone with an eating disorder and often psychiatric help has to occur before nutrition therapy starts. Each person will go through stages of recovery and some will recover faster than others but there is always help available to those that need it.

References: ADA Nutrition Care Manual

Obesity and Menopause: A Growing Concern

Wednesday, February 27th, 2019

Obesity and Menopause: A Growing Concern

In the US over 2 million women a year enter menopause, that’s 6000 women per day! While each woman experiences menopause differently, there are a few classic symptoms. One in particular is the tendency to gain a little weight. During the menopause transition, many women gain approximately 5 pounds, however some women gain 10 or more pounds.

There are a number of reasons for this increase. The decline in estrogen does play a role in increasing the fat in your midsection. We know that lean body mass decreases with age, which is compounded by the more sedentary lifestyle of women. Additionally, sleep deprivation has also been associated with weight gain. For many of us we need to eat less and exercise more just to maintain our current weight.

Statistically, two out of every three women in the US are overweight or obese. Extra weight leads too many diseases that affect women such as heart disease, diabetes and many cancers. With such high risks, it is time to talk!

This month’s Red Hot Mamas is focused on causes and solutions for weight gain during menopause. Come join us on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Our topic is “Obesity and Menopause.” We will talk about individual factors that can make you gain weight and healthy way help you in prevent obesity.

This seminar will be held in the Pebble Creek Conference Room at the Portneuf Medical Center on Tuesday, March 5, 2019. Doors open at 6:00 pm; the presentation begins at 6:30 pm. Light refreshments will be served. To reserve a seat, visit or call 208-239-2033. To learn more about Portneuf’s upcoming seminars, including Red Hot Mamas®, be sure to like Portneuf Medical Center on Facebook.

Foods to Avoid to Prevent Heart Disease

Sunday, February 24th, 2019

Foods to Avoid to Prevent Heart Disease

How often do you consume processed foods? Are you taking frozen meals to work or grabbing fast food? Choosing these options frequently can increase your risk of high cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and insulin levels, all which can lead to life-threatening heart disease. Here are a few foods to limit or completely avoid:

  • Processed meats. Processed foods in general have high levels of salt and other preservatives. Meats such as hot dogs, bacon, sausage, salami and other deli meats are detrimental to the heart. A few slices of deli meat can contain half the recommended level of sodium for an entire day.
  • Processed grains and carbohydrates. Foods such as white bread, white rice and low-fiber cereal may produce high spikes in blood sugar while increasing fat.
  • Candy. Diets with high sugar may increase risk of obesity, inflammation, high cholesterol and diabetes. Each of these factors may turn into a greater risk of heart disease.
  • Soft drinks and sugar-filled drinks. Americans are consuming more calories within their drinks in addition to food. Sugary drinks may increase your chances of gaining weight and add additional calories.
  • Fast food. Fast food restaurants tend to use lower quality ingredients and unhealthy cooking methods. A combination of saturated fats from animals combined with carbohydrate can have a deteriorating effect on heart health. Frying methods also create trans-fat which may lead to an increase of high cholesterol and lower good cholesterol.
  • Frozen Meals. Most frozen dinners are filled with at least 600 milligrams of sodium.

Improving your diet may have a great impact on your long-term health. It may be difficult to completely cut these foods out, so set a goal to limit these foods in your diet. High levels of salt, preservatives and sugar will increase your chances of high blood pressure, blood sugar and obesity all potentially leading to heart disease. The best way to make a change is by focusing on what you should eat, rather than focusing on what is off-limits.


How Aspirin Can Reduce Risks of a Heart Attack

Saturday, February 23rd, 2019

How Aspirin Can Reduce Risks of a Heart Attack

Is aspirin therapy for everyone? Patients at high risk for heart disease can benefit from taking low-dose aspirin. The American Heart Association recommends people at high risk of heart attack should take a daily low-dose of aspirin and heart attack survivors regularly take low-dose aspirin.

In many ways Aspirin is the wonder drug because it acts in so many different mechanisms in the body, but mainly that it’s an anti-inflammatory mechanism. Inflammation plays a key role in heart attack the inside of the blood vessel gets inflamed and a blood clot may form, that is when the blood flow to the heart stops. Aspirin helps prevent the clotting of the blood, called platelets. Platelets sticking together are one of the first steps of a blood clot, so aspirin makes it slicker.

Taking an anti-inflammatory in a small dose of aspirin has tremendous benefits, especially for smokers, diabetics and those over the age of 50. Your health care provider may suggest daily aspirin therapy if you have already had a heart attack or stroke, or if you are at high risk of having one. The possible side effects of daily aspirin therapy include gastrointestinal bleeding, hemorrhagic stroke or allergic reaction.

Talk with your health care provider to see if you are a candidate for aspirin therapy. Call 9-1-1 immediately or seek immediate medical attention. During the month of February Portneuf Medical Center is offering Coronary Risk Profile Lab Tests for $16. Screenings can help detect diseases before symptoms occur. Testing includes results for in total cholesterol, LDL, HDL, triglyceride and VLDL. For more information, please visit To find a primary care provider, please call 208-239-3814.

E-cigarettes a Better Option than Nicotine Therapy?

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Nicotine Therapy a Better Option than E-cigarettes?

Peter Fort, MD

As most people are well aware by now cigarette, smoking is a high-risk addiction.  Cigarette smoking is the number one cause of preventable death in the United States and increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, COPD, asthma, diabetes and cancers to include lung, kidney, mouth, stomach, esophageal and pancreas.  Life expectancy for smokers is at least 10 years shorter than for non-smokers.  Fourteen percent of Americans smoke, but it is as high as 25% in some high-risk subgroups based on education, race and poverty status. Therefore, as a pulmonologist, I am keenly interested in ways that may help my patients quit smoking. Current FDA approved medications for smoking cessation include nicotine replacement therapy (Nicoderm, Nicorette, Nicotrol), bupropion (Zyban) and Varenicline (Chantix).  Unfortunately, these medications demonstrate disappointing one-year abstinent rates at about 20% with Varenicline performing slightly better at 26%.

The e-cigarette was invented to enjoy the benefits of inhaling nicotine while avoiding exposure to the tar or the toxic gases found in cigarette smoke. Electronic cigarettes are nicotine delivery devices using a flavored nicotine liquid that is heated into a mist which is inhaled or “vaped.” Although not approved by the FDA for this purpose, Americans are now using e-cigarettes as the preferred smoking cessation tool compared with nicotine replacement therapy. However, we know little about the effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation or the short or long safety of such treatment.  In this week’s New England Journal of Medicine, a study conducted in the United Kingdom demonstrated that after one year smoking cessation was more successful with e-cigarettes (18%) as compared with nicotine replacement (9%). In addition the participants that used e-cigarettes had less cough and phlegm, no excess wheezing or shortness of breath and only a small incidence of irritation of the throat and mouth as compared with the nicotine replacement group.

A key finding in the study is that 80% of those who quit smoking using e-cigarettes were still using e-cigarettes after one year (only 9% of the nicotine replacement group were still using nicotine replacement). This fact raises concerns about the health consequences of long-term e-cigarette use.  A recent report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine indicated that e-cigarettes were safer than traditional cigarettes, but stopped short of declaring e-cigarettes as safe noting that there are no long-term scientific studies.  This report cited that e-cigarettes have been shown to increase airborne concentrations of particulate matter and nicotine in indoor environments. In addition, there could be a greater number of metals found in e-cigarette vapor as compared to traditional cigarettes. Other reports have suggested that the propylene glycol and glycerol, the major components of e-liquids, may be chemically altered when heated by the vaporizer and be transformed into toxic compounds.

Long term use of e-cigarettes by adults may also expose children and teenagers to e-cigarette vapor as well as be a role model for addictive behavior.  The US Surgeon General has declared e-cigarette use among youth an epidemic and there is even greater concern that these devices will serve as a gateway to more addictive drug use. With the results of the New England Journal article taken into consideration, it is my opinion that there is insufficient data to support the use of e-cigarettes as first line therapy for smoking cessation. I recommend that e-cigarettes be used when other first line FDA approved therapies have failed (combined with behavioral counseling).  When e-cigarettes are used, they should be dosed at the lowest nicotine necessary to reduce cravings and there should be a clear timeline and discontinuation date for its use.


Borrelli B, N Engl J Med 2019; 380:678-679

Hajek P, N Engl J Med 2019; 380:629-637

Prabhat J, N Engl J Med 2013;368:341-350



A Woman’s Heart

Monday, February 18th, 2019

A Woman’s Heart

Benjamin Call, M.D.

Increasingly, it is evident that women’s symptoms are not as predictable as men’s in matters of the heart. Each woman may present with different symptoms of heart disease, and their symptoms are often milder than those of a man. Because of these differences, it is important to learn all you can about the signs and symptoms of heart disease in women.

It is mistakenly thought that chest pain is the most important heart attack symptom in both women and men.  However, fewer than 30 percent of women having a heart attack use the word ‘pain’ in describing their symptoms.  In fact, 43 percent of women report having no pain during any phase of their attack.  Rather than the word pain, the word discomfort is more commonly used.

Angina is the medical term for the early symptom people get when their heart runs out of oxygen due to blocked arteries. Symptoms of angina generally come on with moderate physical exertion, and are relieved in a few minutes with rest. Many women describe angina as a feeling of tightness or heaviness or pressure in the chest, and some may attribute the feeling to a panic attack or anxiety. It may also present as spells of unexplained shortness of breath, burning in the chest, gas in the chest, sweatiness or fatigue.

Symptoms of angina are generally quite stable.  However, if angina starts becoming more intense or more frequent, lasting longer than 20-30 minutes, or coming on with minimal or no exertion, it may be signaling the onset of a heart attack.

Not recognizing or perhaps discounting certain symptoms may cost a life, perhaps your own. Below is a list of symptoms most often experienced by women leading up to and during a heart attack.

Women’s major symptoms leading up to a heart attack may include:

  • Unusual fatigue – 70%
  • Sleep disturbances – 48%
  • Shortness of breath – 42%
  • Indigestion – 39%
  • Anxiety – 35 %

Women’s major symptoms during a heart attack may include:

  • Shortness of breath – 58%
  • Weakness – 55 %
  • Unusual fatigue – 43%
  • Cold sweat – 39%
  • Dizziness – 39%

If you are having these symptoms, call 911. After calling for help, crush or chew an aspirin to prevent further blood clotting. When it comes to matters of the heart, always watch closely for the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, and react as if your life depended on it. To learn more about heart attack symptoms or to reach Pocatello Cardiology, call 208-239-3899.

Dr. Benjamin Call is a board certified cardiologist. He practices at Portneuf Cardiology.

Portneuf Recognized for Excellence in Heart Care

Friday, February 15th, 2019

Portneuf Recognized for Excellence in Heart Care

Pocatello, ID – We are pleased to announce that Portneuf Medical Center once again was awarded Chest Pain Center Accreditation with Primary PCI based on rigorous onsite evaluation of the staff’s ability to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients who may be experiencing a heart attack.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 730,000 Americans suffer a heart attack each year. The most common symptom of a heart attack for both men and women is chest pain or discomfort. However, women are more likely to have atypical symptoms. Other heart attack symptoms include, but are not limited to, tingling or discomfort in one or both arms, back, shoulder, neck or jaw, shortness of breath, cold sweat, unusual tiredness, heartburn-like feeling, nausea or vomiting, sudden dizziness and fainting.

“Portneuf Medical Center has demonstrated its commitment to providing the Eastern Idaho Community with excellent heart care,” said Phillip D. Levy, MD, FACC, chair of the ACC Accreditation Management Board. “ACC Accreditation Services is proud to award Portneuf Medical Center with Chest Pain Center with Primary PCI Accreditation.”

“This accreditation reaffirms our commitment to exceptional competency in treating patients with heart attack symptoms,” said Curtis Sandy, MD. “We have PCI available 24/7 every day of the year. Along with our team of doctors, nurses, clinicians, our partnership with EMS as well as with other administrative staff, we have built a program that leads to better patient education and improved patient outcomes.”

“It was definitely a team effort,” said Maureen Hawkins, RN, BSN, Chest Pain Coordinator. “Our nurse educators met the many requirements, updated policies and reviewed processes. The EMS team was involved in public education and Curtis Sandy, MD and Fernando Grigera, MD ensured we accomplished what was required to achieve this distinction.”

If you or a loved one is looking for a team to care for your heart, our Portneuf Cardiovascular team can be reached at 208-239-3899. Our services are designed to optimize patient outcomes and our providers are focused on all aspects of cardiac care.


Note: Portneuf Medical Center is a regional referral hospital for southern and eastern Idaho and western Wyoming. From our Cancer Center and Level II NICU to our cardiology care and Level II Trauma Center, our dedicated doctors, nurses and staff stand ready to help families in the region.